Newly-appointed Chief Justice Sebastian Aviles addresses SGA Senators. / Julian Davis
Diego Diaz and Elise Gregg / Assistant News Directors
After nearly a year of not having a judicial branch, FIU’s Student Government Association has confirmed a chief justice.
Senators confirmed Sebastian Aviles, on Feb. 7, as chief justice. Aviles is a junior studying computer science and president of the Panther mock trial team.
However, the Senate has tabled confirming other judicial nominees until next week’s meeting at the Biscayne Bay Campus.
“The judicial branch that we confirm today will be the first supreme court under the new constitution and statutes,” said Alexander Sutton, senator of the School of International and Public Affairs.
“They are going to be tasked with writing the first-ever opinions on the new SGA governing documents. These are precedents that will stand for years… long after all of us have graduated.”
Crucially, the SGA supreme court plays a major role during the election, acting as the final stage for the appeal of campaign violation charges. During the 2020 election, the supreme court presided over two cases of election fraud, one of which controversially disqualified three candidates just hours before voting began.
The ruling was later overturned by the Vice President of Academic and Student Affairs.
When asked by Delano Cicconi, the newly-appointed College of Arts, Sciences and Education Senator, how he would conduct himself if he were to preside over a case of a friend, Aviles assured the Senate he would recuse himself if he felt he could not be unbiased.
“If a justice feels at any point that they cannot serve impartially then they have no right to vote,” Aviles.
The supreme court will also perform a central role within internal SGA matters, holding special power to censure, suspend, and expel senators if found in violation of SGA constitutional law and statutes.
Yet, even if all judges are confirmed by next Monday’s SGA meeting, Aviles stressed the time needed for training before presiding over any case, legal opinion, and more importantly, next month’s general election.
“I do understand that elections are right around the corner, but just so everyone is aware, following any confirmation we are going to be trained by the university on our procedures,” said Aviles. “I also plan on meeting with the associate justices to really dive into those election codes and make sure that we all fully understand it.”
SGA President Alexander Rubido also discussed changing SGA’s governing documents, just as elections and judicial confirmations occur.
“One of the things that we said when these documents passed is that they’re living documents, but we need some time to see how they work,” Rubido said. “Nothing works perfectly the first time around.”
The plan is to discuss improvements during this semester with the goal of having a list of proposals by the last senate meeting to recommend to future SGA members.
Senators addressed some concerns, such as how the new documents will address accountability within SGA, questions about legislation, and further changes.
In regards to lacking oversight from a judicial branch, Rubido said that it’s everyone’s responsibility to ensure that all SGA members will keep themselves accountable.
“Being a state university, the judicial branch is not going to be that main resort for students to be held accountable for violating the basic issues that students deal with,” said Rubido. “The way that things are working now we have to take that responsibility more proactively and look at the people who are going to be in the organization first, with more scrutiny than we have in the past.”
Graduate Senator Joshua Mandall had further questions about accountability, particularly that there isn’t a petition for referendum available to students.
Rubido said SGA is still in compliance because there are multiple routes for a referendum, although SGA documents don’t explicitly reference Florida law. He also said SGA would defer to Florida statute in the event of a referendum.